It's not often that a sophomore is the go-to guy at the state wrestling tournament, but Southern Columbia's unbeaten 126-pounder, Kent Lane, found himself in that position Thursday.

Lane was the only one of Southern's three entrants who was at Hershey last year, when he went 1-2, and the other two Tigers, freshman Blake Marks and senior Jake Becker, each admitted to cases of the nerves before their bouts.

Both went to Lane for advice.

"Last night at the hotel, Blake and I were both talking about how nervous we were," said Becker, who had to wrestle Biglerville's Trevor Stover for more than eight minutes before getting a pin to complete Southern's 3-for-3 day. "Blake said he thought it was because he was a freshman and I said, 'No, I feel that way, too.' Kent just told us to go out and have fun and everything would be OK."

Lane was upset with himself

last year after he got too aggressive with a lead and got pinned, and then got eliminated without placing. Now 38-0 this season after his 7-0 win over Pen Argyl's Andrew Sutton, he not only seems more comfortable this year, but he also finds himself in the strange position of grizzled old veteran.

"Kent really helped me a lot," said Marks, a 6-4 winner over Fort LeBoeuf's Taylor Harrington. "He came over to me after his match and talked to me to settle me down. I was so nervous I thought I was going to puke. It's nice to have some teammates down here. I don't know how I would have done if it was just me."

Another area veteran, Line Mountain's Seth Lansberry, who won his 138 opener 9-0, talked about how important the first day is at Hershey.

"It's important to get that first win," Lansberry said. "It gives you the confidence to know you can compete down here. It's a real confidence booster."

It beats having to come back through the consolation rounds, although Line Mountain's Cam Newman and North Schuylkill's Auston Hummel were each able to do that. Both Newman and his coach, Mike Martz, expected the Eagle sophomore, who was here last year, to do better in the first round. Somehow, Newman got his head screwed on straight for a 10-3 consolation win over a wrestler who was arguably better than the wrestler he lost to.

Southern coach Jerry Marks put it best.

"This place is funny; it's all a big mental game. Anything can happen."

Marks knows all about Hershey. He was a four-time qualifier and two-time champ in his day, and things haven't changed much since his time.

Like the chocolate it's famous four, Hershey can leave either a very sweet or very bitter taste.

(Souders is a sports writer for The News-Item)